The Submissions I would read if I were a member of the Citizens Assembly

The Citizens Assembly has announced the 17 groups that have been invited to address the Assembly members at the March meeting. This follows relatively hot on the heels of its selection of 300 ‘random’ submissions to be brought to members’ attention, as well as the (continuing) uploading of the 13,000+ submissions that were sent to the Assembly either online or by post.

The selection of the sample and of groups to present to the Assembly has attracted some criticism, including from me. It would appear that the Assembly has taken an extremely limited approach to the concept of balance, understanding it as meaning one side ‘balancing out’ another, without regard to points of extremity, the fact that contestation is complex, the possibility of multiple points of disagreement along a scale and so on. In addition, the selection of the random sample of 300 submissions was undertaken without even the barest methodological rigour one would expect of, say, an undergraduate student by, for example, determining first the volume of submissions that were ‘template’ or repeat submissions, the broad proportions of submissions calling for repeal or retention, and then sampling from a ‘proper’ sample (with one of each template, for example) in a manner proportionate to the overall submission rates. Furthermore, in inviting people to address the Assembly it would appear that any lawyers who had ever written specifically on the issue of abortion law reform in Ireland were excluded (although not practising lawyers who had acted in abortion law cases), and the submissions of those lawyers (disclosure: this includes me) were not identified as being in any way potentially more useful or more likely to propose solutions than those of anyone else. This is in spite of the fact that at every meeting members of the Assembly have repeatedly asked for solution-oriented/forward-facing and comparative approaches to be presented to them.

So, if I were a member of the Assembly I would be frustrated. I thus thought it might be useful, as I have read many of the submissions uploaded so far, to suggest a selection that I might read if I were a member, in order to acquire a fuller picture of the kinds of ideas and perspectives being submitted to the Assembly.

By doing this I do not mean to suggest that submissions from experts are more valuable or have more worth than those from non-expert submitters; I am simply trying to identify submissions that I considered were useful in bringing a particular perspective to the Assembly’s deliberations and which I think can usefully be read in conjunction with the ‘random sample’. 

This is not comprehensive, for example the Coalition to Repeal the 8th submission is not listed here, as it does not provide an insight that differs from those provided in more specialist submissions, but it is still of great interest (and they have helpfully collected their members’ submissions here).

I have tried to insert links for all of these, but the site is extremely buggy and they may not always work. If not, then the submissions can be found by using the ‘search’ function on the submissions site.

I would also be happy to receive further suggestions in the Comments. In particular, I wonder whether I have missed a submission (or more) that gives the perspective of a trans* person or is on behalf of a trans* organisation; if so, I would certainly think members should read that and I would be grateful to be pointed towards it.

Empirical Work on Abortion in Ireland

Deirdre Duffy & Claire Pierson

On personal experience

Termination for Medical Reasons (not invited to address the Assembly)

Abortion Rights Campaign and its collection of 60 ‘abortion stories’

Abortion Support Network

National Traveller Women’s Forum

Women Hurt (invited to address the Assembly in March)

On professional experience

Midwives for Choice

Doctors for Choice (invited to address the Assembly in March)

Irish Catholic Doctors Association 

Doctors for Life Ireland (invited to address the Assembly in March)

Irish Family Planning Association (invited to address the Assembly in March)

Pharmacists for Choice 

On international human rights law & comparative law

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUIG

Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Centre for Constitutional Rights 

On ethics and morality

Catholics for Choice 

Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference (invited to address the Assembly in March)

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland (invited to address the Assembly in March)

Youth Defence (invited to address the Assembly in March)

William J. Reville

Pro-Life Campaign (invited to address the Assembly in March)

On Irish constitutional law going forward

Fiona de Londras (esp. from page 11)

On regulating abortion in Ireland after repeal of the 8th Amendment

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (addressed the Assembly in February)

I also know that a group submission was submitted by the ten of us who already prepared a draft of what post-repeal legislation might look like, however it does not yet seem to be uploaded. It was, however, based on this article and this draft law.


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